Cisco Canada has opened an intelligent building integration centre in downtown Toronto for organizations to test supplier solutions using the network equipment maker’s technology before putting them into offices across the country.
It’s merely a room on the 35th floor of Cisco’s Toronto headquarters with a rack server and building control systems on the wall. But Cisco intends to make it an important part of its expansion into its so-called smart and connected communities strategy.
The strategy has seen Cisco help in the design the infrastructure of a downtown Toronto office building and a soon-to-open community college on the lakeshore. In Alberta it is involved in planning a subdivision.
“We’ve got all the Cisco technology here, so it means that any of our ecosystem partners coming in here can test their equipment, work out all the bugs, then deliver it to the customer,” said Ron Gordon, business development manager for Cisco Canada’s connected real estate unit.
“It also allows us to prove out the solutions and then when new buildings are coming up we can present them to the developers and the major tenants and see if that’s something they’d like to have.”
Gordon also made it clear that the future Cisco sees includes plenty of room for players other than major vendors. “A master technology integrator is becoming an important role,” he said, to work with architects, developers and building systems control makers.
The integration test centre was announced Monday as part of a three-day seminar for international press and industry analysts to show off the local intelligent building projects Cisco is involved in, part of its smart communities strategy. That strategy is aimed at broadening Cisco’s image as a mere manufacturer of routers and switches.
The goal it to convince governments and the private sector to get their systems to work together to create smarter institutions.
At a base level, Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO] is working with real estate developers, landlords and building infrastructure makers to get components like IP-based lighting, ventilation and telephony systems inside individual buildings to work together. More broadly, Cisco hopes to connect networks within municipalities together to create what it calls smart cities.
Cisco says among its goals is to help organizations and governments deliver better innovation and productivity, but it also admits that it hopes to get a piece of the network infrastructure spending developers and governments are putting out.
One of the reasons the seminar is being held here is Cisco believes its involvement in Waterfront Toronto is one of eight “iconic” intelligent projects it is involved in around the world. A revitalization of part of the city’s lakeshore to house 115,000 people, it will include gigabit Ethernet connectivity to every residence for a converged Internet, voice and television access. Other projects it sees as landmark — not all of which are completed — are in Rio De Janero, London, Moscow, Barcelona, South Korea and Australia.
Cisco helped Waterfront Toronto, the master developer, design the IT infrastructure for free. It has also been privately retained by developers, builders and the project’s service provider.
During the seminar Cisco will be taking reporters to see several of the Toronto projects its involved in. They represent individual building successes and not the city-wide integrated networks its vision encompasses. But in an interview, Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale said the company wants to show “what’s in the realm of the possible”
In an interview he also acknowledged that part of the reason for this week’s seminar is to help change governments and businesses to see things Cisco’s way. “There’s a huge front end — educational, evangelical — that needs to occur as you get people to move along,” he said.”
Kawale and other Cisco officials at Monday’s session admitted that in the real estate industry it hasn’t been easy, even if the lure is the possibility of monetizing new services that smart buildings can bring.
Anil Menon, president of Cisco’s global smart communities unit based in Bangalore, India, said by videoconference that one way his company is making progress is by partnering with “forward-looking developers.”